Matsui to DH, pinch-hit until June

TAMPA, Fla. -- Hideki Matsui won't play in the outfield for the New York Yankees until at least interleague road games in June and will be restricted to designated hitter and pinch-hitting appearances until then.

Matsui is recovering from left knee surgery last Sept. 22. Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn't want to take the chance of a setback.

"The earliest we would need him in the outfield would be interleague, and that's a ways off," Girardi said Wednesday. "That's why we envision him as our everyday DH. We need him. He's a great RBI guy. He's very important to our lineup."

Matsui didn't make the trip for Wednesday's game against the Houston Astros at Kissimmee after being the DH the previous four days.

"I think the fact my body, knee are getting used to it is a good sign," Matsui said through a translator.

Matsui could hit fourth until third baseman Alex Rodriguez returns from right hip surgery. Rodriguez, expected back in May, would return to his normal cleanup position, with Matsui possibly dropping to fifth.

In other news, closer Mariano Rivera said he felt fine, one day after pitching for the first time in spring training. The right-hander, coming off right shoulder surgery last Oct. 7, struck out two during a perfect inning in New York's 9-2 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Rivera was to pitch again Thursday.

Catcher Jorge Posada was scheduled to catch Thursday and Friday, his first consecutive appearances behind the plate since right shoulder surgery last July 30. He was to catch Andy Pettitte in a minor league game Friday.

Posada said his shoulder feels good but he still has some soreness in his right foot -- he fouled a ball off it Tuesday.

CC Sabathia, the expected Opening Day starter, was set to pitch in a minor league game Sunday.